ORMOND BEACH — City commissioners will consider whether to move forward with a referendum that would decide the fate of the city’s fluoridation program.
“Personally, I’m tired of hearing about it at every meeting,” said Mayor Ed Kelley. “We’ve spent so much time on it.”
The city could begin the process Tuesday night that would call for a special election asking residents whether the municipality should continue to put fluoride in the city’s water supply. In 1957, voters decided in favor of fluoridation by a 20-vote margin.
Commissioners will consider holding a referendum on an ordinance amendment that would prohibit the city from adding fluoride to the water supply.
The proposed referendum question asks residents: “Shall the city stop adding fluoride to its public water system?”
Those in favor of the amendment would vote yes and those who want to keep public fluoridation would vote no. Should commissioners pass the ordinance Tuesday, it would come up for a second reading later this month. If approved again, ballots would be mailed out to residents and have to be returned to the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections by March 19, 2013.
City Attorney Randy Hayes said the timing of the election could change based on whether a special election is held to fill an open seat on the Volusia Soil & Water Conservation District. Hayes said it’s possible the city could include its question on the same ballot, thus saving money. The estimated cost of the election if the city does it alone is more than $45,000.
The referendum is being considered after a summer of debate over the provider of the city’s hydrofluorosilicic acid, a form of fluoride.
Commissioner Troy Kent sent out letters to more than 40 providers and got no response after asking them to provide documentation their products were compliant with industry regulations safe for human consumption. He said he questioned the need for fluoride after federal officials told parents to stop giving fluoridated water to infants and lowered the optimum level of fluoride allowed in drinking water.
Kent said he’s glad the public will have a voice but he’s worried about the cost and a mail ballot might yield a low turnout.
Opponents of fluoridation claim the government is forcefully medicating citizens and that it can cause health problems. The medical community, most notably the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, endorses fluoridation as a way to cut down on tooth decay. The CDC estimates every $1 invested into fluoridation yields about $38 in savings for dental treatment costs.
Kelley said regardless of how the election turns out, at least one side of the debate won’t like the outcome.
“Unfortunately, people won’t be happy because 100 percent won’t be for or against it.”
Despite the likelihood of a public vote, Kent said his questions remain unanswered.
“The public deserves to know what’s being put in their water,” he said.
The fluoride ordinance is one of many items on the city’s agenda, including a final reading of an ordinance to ban synthetic drugs that imitate marijuana and other illegal substances. Tuesday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in commission chambers at City Hall, 22 S. Beach St.